Signs Preceding The End Of The World


Yuri Herrera

First Sentence:     I’m dead, Makina said to herself when everything lurched: a man with a cane crossing the street, a dull groan suddenly surged through the asphalt, the man stood still as if waiting for someone to repeat the question and then the earth opened up beneath his feet: it swallowed the man, and with him a car and a dog, all the oxygen around and even the screams of the passers-by.

Back of the book:

Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there’s no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages – one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld.

 * * *

Click for last sentence


Swimming Home

Deborah Levy

First Sentence:     When Kitty Finch took her hand off the steering wheel and told him she loved him, he no longer knew if she was threatening him or having a conversation.

Back of the book:

As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe’s wife allow her to remain?

Quotes from the book:

“Sex with her had brought him to the edge of the yellow line on the platforms of tube and train stations where he had stood thinking about it.”

He said the jam changed the weather inside him, but she didn’t know what the weather was in the first place.

* * * *

Click for last sentence

Down The Rabbit Hole

Juan Pablo Villalobos

First Sentence: Some people say I’m precocious.

Some people say this book is wonderful. I’d have to agree.  It comes from new publishers And Other Stories and if the rest of their list is anywhere near as good as this I think I’ll be investigating further. The narrator is Tochtli, the ten-year old son of a drug lord who lives in a palace. Tochtli’s voice is a joy to read and even more authentic than Room ‘s narrator, though I will admit to enjoying Room. Tochtli’s interests include: hats, guillotines, Japan (samurai in particular) and most importantly, Liberian Pygmy Hippopotamuses. Like Room‘s narrator, Tochtli’s entire world is his enclosed environment, only in this book it is a palace, not a tiny room. Living in this palace has shaped Tochtli completely and he can even count how many people he has actually met. And not have to count very high at that. The reason I say Tochtli’s voice is more authentic than Jack’s in Room is simply because as a reader I feel I am better able to empathise with him. I’m not sure why I find it easier to feel empathy towards the son of a drug baron but there you go. (I am not, as far as I know, the son of a criminal.) It’s just that when he speaks of gangs, and gang culture, and the importance of being a macho man and everything that goes with it, the trust, the fear of being called a faggot, your heart can’t help but break just a little bit. This child knows no other life, no other set of morals, and because of this we can’t really hold him responsible for the life he is living. He is only a child and he is filled with the same wonder any ten-year old boy is:

I think the most enigmatic and mysterious thing in the world must be a Japanese mute.

Another reason his voice is so authentic stems from the words he uses. He reuses ‘big’ words over and over again and this is one of the reasons people think he is precocious. He speaks of making corpses with orifices made from bullets, instead of just saying shooting people. At the beginning of the books he lists some of the really big words he knows; sordid, pathetic, devastating, disastrous. These four words, and the frequency with which they are used says a great deal about Tochtli and the environment he is growing up in. This is a powerful book loaded with personality and is infinitely charming. I’m glad I took a chance on it and I look forward to reading more from And Other Stories…

* * * *

Click for last sentence